CHICAGO -- David Stern's powers of persuasion and a closed path to Seattle resulted in the sale of the Kings on Thursday to a group that will keep them in Sacramento, a league source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The franchise that only months ago seemed ticketed to Seattle was sold to the group led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive for $535 million, the source said. The agreement, signed by both sides, is subject to approval by the NBA's Board of Governors.
The franchise valuation increased by $10 million above the $525 signed offer from the group led by Ranadive that Stern mentioned on Wednesday after the league's Board of Governors meeting in Dallas. The league's owners voted 22-8 on Wednesday to reject relocation of the Kings to Seattle, effectively killing the Maloof family's agreement to sell the team to the Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.
Approval of the sale, which requires three-fourths of the NBA's ownership representatives to pass, is expected to be swift and without incident. The purchase agreement is signed by both parties, the league source confirmed, which Stern indicated on Wednesday would represent all but a green light for the team's ownership to be transferred.
"If there is a signed document, we would in quick order convene by conference call the advisory finance committee, which has vetted, as far as you can go without a vote, the Ranadive group," Stern said.
The agreement between the Maloofs and the Ranadive group represents the final hurdle, pending league approval, in a three-year battle to keep the team in Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson and city officials fended off an attempt by the Maloofs to move the team to Anaheim, then put together an ownership group and an arena deal to persuade NBA owners that the city remained capable of supporting the team.
The Hansen-Ballmer group initially agreed to buy 60 percent of the Kings from the Maloofs based on a franchise valuation of $525 million. It subsequently increased its offer to $625 million, with the difference between the two groups' offers essentially represented by the lack of a relocation fee with the team staying in Sacramento. Also, since the team is not moving, the new owners will not have to repay an estimated $76 million owed to the city of Sacramento.
In a last-ditch effort to be awarded the team, the Hansen group made what was characterized as a "backup deal" to buy 20 percent of the team from the Maloofs for $125 million and keep the team in Sacramento temporarily. But league sources told CBSSports.com that owners who'd already decided that relocation was not the preferred outcome saw through that deal and Stern dismissed it on Wednesday as a non-factor in the discussions.
League owners never weighed in with a vote on the proposed sale of the team to the Hansen-Ballmer group, but the agreement became moot once the Board of Governors followed the 7-0 recommendation of the relocation committee to reject the proposed relocation. The only hurdle left for Sacramento will be to follow through on the funding and construction of a new downtown arena, for which a plan has been passed by the City Council using an estimated $258 million in public funds.
Stern and incoming commissioner Adam Silver said on Wednesday that they regretted having left the Seattle market in 2008 when the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City. But Seattle is left to hope it can land a future relocated or expansion team with no promises from the NBA.
"Just our promise of fair dealing and ultimate consideration down the road," Stern said.